Many of us grew up in the 60s and 70s in families that (unconsciously) instilled in us the belief that resting or doing nothing was lazy. I am from a typical farming family where Dad was out working from dawn until late at night and Mum was constantly on-the-go doing jobs and running the household. Whilst the pace of life was slower back then, resting and relaxing, except on Sundays, wasn’t something that was encouraged or role-modelled on a daily basis.
Fast-forward to today, and thanks largely to a technology-driven world of instant access and gratification, a culture of busy-ness has taken over business and family lives. The pressures to be seen as successful, to have more, have the perfect body, fit everything in and keep-up with the latest trends in food, gadgets, holiday destinations or entertainment, are rife. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience all the amazing diversity that life offers, the need to keep-up and keep-doing is exhaustive and having massive impacts on our health and happiness.
Sadly, one of the most common phrases I hear people say when it comes to being able to slow down or relax is “I just can’t keep still” or “I can’t switch off”. This is not just in adults, its also in children and teenagers. And hands-up if you pride yourself on ‘being busy.’
We’ve lost the ability to simply ‘be’. Unfortunately, despite most of us knowing (on some level) that a frantic pursuit to get everything done isn’t good for us, we are still not convinced to take the time-out that we need to.
More than just chilling-out, true relaxation is where our parasympathetic nervous system activates, our breathing rate slows down and we feel a deep sense of contentment and ease. Being in this state allows our body’s natural ability to rest, to digest, to regulate and to heal.
Relaxation is crucial for personal well-being, for healthy relationships and for productive, successful workplaces. If you are among the majority of people who are stressed and who don’t make relaxation a priority, it may be time to reevaluate your perspective – and your schedule.
And if you have children, it is essential that you role-model routines and behaviours that teach them how to relax in healthy ways. Research shows that many minor and life-threatening illnesses are stress-related, and therefore preventable. Stress, and the lack of regular relaxation, has harmful effects on your body’s immune system – everything from catching colds and getting coldsores, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, infertility and chronic anxiety to heart attacks and cancer. We are each responsible for taking time-out every day so that we can effectively relax. It starts with the decision to make your self-care a priority and a commitment. If you replenish yourself first, you will feel better about yourself, be loving and have more to give to others. Let-go of any guilty thoughts or selfish feelings that might arise because you are choosing to do something for yourself. Does your life vision include being happy, peaceful, helping others or making a difference? Then try setting some personal goals that recognise the importance of regular time-out and relaxation. Consider giving yourself 5-10 minutes every day where you do ‘nothing’. And in this time, connect with your breath and just notice how you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you don’t know how to relax, then explore ways that you can learn.
Take a beginners yoga, meditation or relaxation course close to where you live or organise one in your workplace. Other ideas can include spending time in your garden or a local park, even during your lunch break. Giving yourself designated screen-free and phone-free time time every day just to ponder and wonder. And taking-up a creative hobby that appeals to you and encourages ‘being in the moment’ verses achievement like drawing, craft, photography or singing – just for the enjoyment of it. Ultimately, more than just good health, this ancient Chinese proverb sums up the opportunity we each have to rediscover ourselves and reach our full potential, through regular relaxation: “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
To your health, happiness and potential,
Natalie Snooke is an experienced Life Coach, Mindful Leadership Coach, Yoga and Meditation Teacher and the founder of Momentum. She specialises in guiding men and women to develop focus, presence, creativity and compassion in their personal and professional lives. She has a background in human resource management and takes a pragmatic yet light-hearted approach to her work.